Lula's inauguration carnival

Image: Elyeser Szturm


The carnivalesque inversion of the scene goes further. It sweeps and removes the rotten power that had settled there, with its fake authorities and tarnished uniforms in “dark transactions”

Let's visualize the scene of what will be one of the most emblematic photos of Lula's inauguration. Lula walks up the ramp with those who will hand over the presidential sash to him – representatives of the Brazilian people in their diversity.

Now let's imagine an image of what didn't happen: Lula receives the sash from the President of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco. Let's imagine one more: Lula receives the sash from Dilma, the legitimate ex-president who should be there. Finally, another third image of what did not happen: Lula receives the sash from Chief Raoni, the legitimate representative of the indigenous peoples.

In the three possibilities that did not occur, we would have the presence of an authority whose place is already established, even if, in one of the cases, that place has been usurped by the coup plotters on duty. What would be written in the annals of history? Something like this: “President Lula did not receive the sash from the former president or the former vice-president due to their refusal, and who passed the sash was the next authority in the line of succession, the president of the Senate.”

In the two other possibilities, the first words of the record are kept and the last part is changed, to bring President Dilma or Chief Raoni. They would certainly have a much more significant historical and symbolic importance than that of the official line of succession. But perhaps misunderstanding or bad faith expressed a perplexity: “but she was deposed, she has no legitimacy to pass the banner!” Or else: “but he is an indigenous chief, he cannot represent the entire people!”

In all three possibilities there is a crucial point in common. The recording of the imaginary scene would bring something of a decrease, of one less or of a lack in the passage of the banner and of what this ritual expresses, that is, the inauguration of the presidency of the Republic of Brazil. He took office, received the belt, but…

Let's go back to the scene of what happened. Making the people hand over the presidential sash was a symbolic gesture that broke with all codes and inaugurated a new record. This one, out of pure positivity, brought to the scene those who “should not be there”, dissimilar in everything and for everything expected and approved. In the created record, there is no decrease or lack, as evoked for the other possibilities, on the contrary, there is expansion. Who goes up the ramp is not one, there are many.

The scene is unusual. Seeing that disparate group occupy the inauguration space and the president in their midst awakens an aesthetic that is almost tropicalist or rather, almost modernist, as in an Andrade's manifesto in the week of 22. Anthropophagy of bureaucratized power?

Perhaps the exact term is carnivalization. The concept of carnival in literary theory was formulated by Russian theorist Mikhaïl Bakhtin in his analysis of popular culture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.[I] It designates a series of festive popular demonstrations that have the inversion and overthrow of power as their axial meaning. The old becomes a child, death becomes life, the low becomes high, and so on. It is not just a party with a set start and end date as we know it in our contemporary carnival. In the Bakhtinian concept, the true hero of carnival is time. Because he is the operator of the great and profound social and cultural transformations. The party of time is the party of change. The one that makes death a sowing of life.

Let's go back to our disparate group going up the ramp. In it, one is chosen to put the sash on the president: the young black woman whose profession is waste picker, that is, one of the categories that are on the lowest step of the long and tall pyramid of our unequal society. The president bows his head in front of the girl so that she can place the sash on him. Another image that will certainly be among the most mediated of this possession. What we have there is a radical inversion where the highest bows down to the lowest as if to say: the real power is you because, in democracy, power belongs to the people and it is through and for you that I must govern.

The carnivalesque inversion of the scene goes further. It sweeps and removes the rotten power that had settled there, with its authorities fake and with tarnished uniforms in “dark transactions”. Joy is the test of nine and the festive feast of carnival, in the Bakhtinian view, is the place of in vino veritas whose truth is revealed by irreverence. Lula's inauguration carnival shows us the truth under the luminous sky of Brasilia. What is the group's scene if not the truest portrait of Brazil?

And the little bitch? Everyone already knows his story and knows his name. It's called Resistance and it went up the ramp with the president. What does she tell us about? First, it summons the past and prevents it from being forgotten: Lula's unjust imprisonment. The party should not serve to erase injustices.

Its name also speaks of a resistance that was of many and was of one. Let's talk a little about this one. Let's remember everything he was able to resist and overcome: from starvation as a child to the two prisons he was sentenced to. The first was clear: the arrest warrant issued by the military dictatorship condemned him for his political activities. The second, in a sense, can be thought of as more perverse than the first because it attacked his honor and dignity and omitted the real reason for his arrest which, again, was political.

More perverse, if anything more perverse than the military dictatorship is possible, because it included the destruction of his image and that of his entire family, thanks to the ever-serving power of the hegemonic Brazilian press. The first arrest placed him as an enemy of power, as a “subversive”, which in no way diminished him. The second produces an erasure of his political strength and reduces him to a mere “corrupt”.

What is this unparalleled ability to resist made of? She is made of life, her life, her story. Of your challenges and your accomplishments. But Lula doesn't just resist: each time, he comes out stronger than he came in. What strength is this? It's the strength of Metis, name of an ancient Greek goddess who was said to be the only one feared by Zeus, the king of the gods. Metis it is the incarnation of a totally peculiar form of intelligence and knowledge. It develops and expresses itself in the struggle to survive in the face of extremely potent adverse forces. In the fight against the strongest, she employs means that only she knows. Two of them preside over the others. On the one hand, Metis embodies the intelligence of the situation: knowing how to embrace it instead of confronting it in order to identify the opportune moment to act and the weak point where to act. On the other hand, the capacity for metamorphosis: becoming what or who is not expected, which is not foreseen.

Those who attacked, persecuted and condemned Lula did not know him. They thought they could destroy it and forgot that it comes from far away. His intelligence and strength only grew along the way. And since we live in a democracy that isn't exactly Greek, we don't have any Zeus to hold him back here. What can we only celebrate!

*Marilia Amorim is a retired professor at the Institute of Psychology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and at the University of Paris VIII. She authored, among other books by Raconter, démontrer, survivre… Formes de savoir et de discours dans la culture contemporaine [Narrating, demonstrating, surviving… Forms of knowledge and discourse in contemporary culture] (Ed. eres) (


[I] BAKHTIN, M. Popular culture in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The context of the work of François Rabelais. Sao Paulo, Ed. Hucitec, 7th edition, 2010.

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